The H1b was touted as the vehicle for bringing in highly skilled labor into the USA on a temporary basis, for short periods to address the skills shortage, However the H1b program has been mired in controversy, with many opponents accusing that the program is misused by companies that used the H1b for hiring cheap labor. Many advocates of saving jobs for local citizens, spoke up for reforms in the H1b program. The H1b visa reform act of 2017 , or the ‘protect and grow American jobs act’ as it is commonly known was introduced in the senate house on March 3 2017. The bill yet to be passed into a law, proposed the following changes.
Apart from these two bills, the current president of America, Donald Trump, has signed two executive orders that effectively ask for more scrutiny and restrictions to be placed on H1b visa applications, including doubling the minimum wage for H1B workers to 100 k USD and removing certain job categories from the definition of skilled class category. Although these executive orders do not have any immediate effect on H1B visa process, however they have a ratcheted effect on the visa system as the orders could lead to increased scrutiny of H1b applications and a more merit based approach to issuing the visas.
While much has been said about the negative impact on tech workers from India, and the companies that hire them, on account of the proposed H1B reforms, there are also many positive outcomes that need to be taken into consideration. First of all, the H1B visa overhaul, especially abolishing the lottery system, will ensure that the visas are allocated to the persons they were intended for – The high skilled, high paid workers who have the theoretical expertise and practical know-how of highly specialized knowledge. The new reforms would also guard against visa fraud by certain companies by improving vigilance and would make sure that the H1B worker is given a fair deal in terms of wages. As many of the advocates of H1B reform would argue, the fact that the companies hiring the most number of H1B workers, such as Infosys and TCS pay lesser wages than those hiring more local candidates like Microsoft, Apple and Alphabet, clearly demonstrates that the H1B is not going to the worker with the highest skills.
With all the intended changes H1B still remains popular as it is a dual intent visa, meaning a person who enters USA on a H1B visa can file for a green card, without having to leave the country. Although with the changing political landscape and increasing restrictions on immigrants many Indians are looking towards other avenues such as Canada and Australia for their immigration dreams…